Do the Colors of Ethernet Cables Matter?

Colors of ethernet cables matter title page

Ethernet colors come in a variety of colors.

If you’ve ever bought ethernet cables online (like these for example), I’m sure you’ve seen the options that’re available to you. To name a few choices, you can find ethernet cables in the following colors:

  • Gray
  • Black
  • Blue
  • Red
  • Green
  • White
  • Yellow

Depending upon where you look, you can find many other colors in addition to the ones listed above.

A lot of questions come from these different color choices.

What is the difference between cables that are different colors?

Do I need to buy cables that are a specific color?

Do all my ethernet cables have to be the same color?

All of these questions boil down to one basic question: does the color of my ethernet cables matter?

Thankfully, the answer is pretty straightforward.

The color of an ethernet cable doesn’t matter. A cable’s color has no impact on the performance or configuration of the cable.

Cables are made in different colors to make things easier on the end user. If a certain color is used for certain types of devices, a user can quickly identify what a cable in their network is used for.

In this post, I’ll discuss all you need to know about the colors of your ethernet cables. I’ll also answer a few of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to selecting what color of ethernet cable to buy.

What do the different colors of ethernet cables indicate?

Let’s compare two ethernet cables that are different colors.

Here are two ethernet cables that I use in my home network:

Two Cat5e ethernet cables of different colors

They’re both the same category of cable (cat5e), and the only difference between them is their color.

So the question is, will these two cables perform differently?

The answer is no.

The reason for this is because the color of the cable has no impact on its performance. The two cables above will perform exactly the same.

Think of it like two cars that are the same year, make, and model. One is painted red and the other is painted black.

Even though the cars are different colors, everything about the performance of the cars is the same.

Both cars will accelerate at the same rate, get the same gas mileage, and have the same top speed.

The same principle applies with ethernet cables.

In this case, as long as the design and technical configuration of the cable is the same (i.e. the category of the cable is the same), it doesn’t matter what color it is.

The category of the cable will tell you about it’s design, so that’s much more important to pay attention to if you want to know how a cable will perform.

To say it differently, you can’t tell anything about an ethernet cable by looking at what color it is.

For example, here are two other cables in my network:

Two different category ethernet cables of the same color

The cable on the left is a cat5e cable and the one on the right is a cat6 cable.

Even though they’re both yellow, they have totally different performance specifications. The cat6 cable will support faster speeds than the cat5e cable because it’s built to higher specifications.

The same would be true regardless of the colors of the two cables.

What color ethernet cable should I use?

If the color of an ethernet cable doesn’t affect its performance, does that mean you can use any color cables you want in your home network?

Yes it does.

You can choose any color of ethernet cable that you like. With that said, there are a few considerations you might want to keep in mind when choosing your cable color.

Where will the cable be located?

Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is where your ethernet cables will be located. Answering this question can go a long way towards helping you figure out what color of ethernet cable to get.

For example, will you be wiring ethernet cable jacks in different rooms of your home?

If that’s the case, the ethernet cables will be located in the walls and ceilings of your home. You won’t be able to physically see the cables, so it doesn’t matter what color you choose.

You’re free to choose any color of the rainbow.

What if your ethernet cables will be out in the open in your home? Does that change the color selection of your cables?

Honestly, that boils down to how much you care about how your house looks.

If you don’t want your ethernet cables standing out, you might want to pick a color that matches the walls of the room the cable will be in. This might be especially important if you have long ethernet cables.

Here’s an example of what I’m referring to:

Gray cable against gray wall

As you can see, with the gray walls in my home, a gray ethernet cable is a good choice. It blends in with the background and you don’t really notice it.

What would this look like if I used yellow ethernet cables?

It wouldn’t look very pretty:

Yellow cable against gray wall

The yellow ethernet cable is much more noticeable than the gray ethernet cable.

Again, for some people it isn’t a big deal if their ethernet cables don’t match their environment. It’s just something to consider when deciding what color to get.

How complex is your network?

The other variable to consider when selecting an ethernet cable color is how complex your network will be.

If you’re like me and your home network isn’t very complicated, the color of your ethernet cables won’t matter as much.

To give you some perspective, I currently have yellow, black, and gray ethernet cables in my home network. With that said, my home network isn’t very complex so I can get away with it.

Here’s what my home network looks like:

Router with ethernet cables

At the end of the day, I don’t have too many wired devices in my home. As a result, I’m not too worried about grouping my wired devices by color.

If I wired my entire house with ethernet cables, and had multiple ethernet switches with different cables plugged into them, that would be a different story.

If you’ve seen pictures of datacenters or other complex environments, you may have noticed that the ethernet cables are all the same color.

I’ll refer you to example A:

Datacenter ethernet cables

The cable colors are coordinated because it makes it easier for IT administrators to identify what each cable is used for. If the network wasn’t organized like this, it would be much harder to find out what each ethernet cable is used for.

I’m sure you’ve experienced a similar situation in your home when a bunch of wires are tangled together. It can make it extremely difficult to figure out what wire goes to what device. This is what complex environments are avoiding by coordinating the colors of their cables.

I would imagine for most home networks this color coordination of ethernet cables may not be necessary, but it’s something to consider if you have a lot of security cameras or other wired devices in your home.

Do all my ethernet cables have to be the same color?

Ok, so we’ve established that we have freedom when picking what color of ethernet cable we want to use. We can choose any color of cable we want.

A common follow-up question to this is: once you pick a color, do all your ethernet cables have to be the same color?

The answer is no. You have freedom here as well.

Take my home network for example.

As I mentioned, I have 3 differently colored cables in my network. It might not be the prettiest, but it gets the job done.

Every single cable in your network can be a different color if you so desire.

This supports the key point that the color of the cable has no impact on its performance. So long as the cable is a category that supports the speed of your network, the color doesn’t matter. This is true for every ethernet cable in your network.

Wrap up

The color of an ethernet cable doesn’t have an impact on its performance, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be useful.

You can use ethernet cable colors to organize your network, or make them blend into the background of the room they’re in.

For many people, the color of an ethernet cable isn’t even a consideration. As long as the cable works, it doesn’t matter what color it is.

The bottom line is, the choice is yours. You can put as much or as little thought into it as you want.

If you have any questions about any of the information in this post, or you’d like to share your experiences with ethernet cable colors, please drop a comment below.

If you found this post helpful, be sure to check out some of the other posts I’ve written on similar topics:

What Does Cat Mean for Ethernet Cables?

How Long Do Ethernet Cables Last?

How to Extend an Ethernet Cable

Does Ethernet Cable Length Affect Network Speed?

Can an Ethernet Cable Slow Your Internet Speed?

Ross Ricky

Ross Ricky is an engineer and cybersecurity professional who wants nothing more than for you to get the most out of your home network.

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